I finished my last college courses in December, 2013, and as soon as I got on break I turned to a new page in one of my journals and scribbled “Freedom from College Reading” at the top. Here are the books I delved into in 2014!
1. We the Living, Ayn Rand
2. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
3. The Persian Pickle Club, Sandra Dallas
4. Trail of Crumbs, Kim Sunee
5. Daniel Isn’t Talking, Marti Leimback
6. The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
7. The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
8. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
9. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
10. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
11. Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King
12. Divergent, Veronica Roth
13. We the Animals, Justin Torres
14. The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, Michele Young-Stone
15. The Empty Glass, J. I. Baker
16. The Chocolate Money, Ashley Prentice Norton
17. Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst
18. The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian
19. Unspoken, Angela Elwell Hunt
20. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
21. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
22. Tar Baby, Toni Morrison
23. Hector and the Search for Happiness, Francois Lelord
24. The Biology of Luck, Jacob M. Appel
25. The Lost World, Michael Crichton
26. Secrets of Eden, Chris Bohjalian
27. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
28. Love Me Back, Merritt Tierce
29. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
30. Eden: A Novel, Olympia Vernon
31. Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
32. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (reread)
33. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (reread)
34. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (reread)
35. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (reread)
Now, I’m going to make recommendations, but I’m not going to bother with the BIG books, if that makes sense. For instance, of COURSE you should read Toni Morrison. That’s a no-brainer. If you’re a reader, you’ve either read The Fault in Our Stars or had it recommended to you. Gone Girl got turned into a movie, so people know about it.
So here is my Books of Which You’ve Likely Never Heard Recommendation List:
We the Animals, Justin Torres
— Justin Torres was a presenter at the Sigma Tau Delta National English Honor Society conference last year, which is how I heard about his book. The book is stunningly poetic, gut-wrenching in its heartfelt and personal content, and chock full of amazing sentiments.
It’s a fiercely emotional read about family relationships and growing up, but somehow much more than simply a “coming of age” tale. Flipping to any random page, you’ll find completely engrossing language:
“…and as he said the words, the picture formed in my mind: my brothers and me, flailing our arms, rising, the world telescoping away, falling up past the stars, through space and blackness, floating upward, until we were safe as seed wrapped up in the fist of God.”
To read about all of Torres’s amazing accomplishments, check out his website.
The Empty Glass, J. I. Baker
Fans of The Black Dahlia might want to perk up at this one. It’s the tale of the investigation following Marilyn Monroe’s death, replete with threads of the old conspiracy theories and legends. It’s a quick and engaging read and a spectacular effort from a first-time novelist. Baker effortlessly weaves fact and legend together, putting the reader very much in the moment of the story. It’s one of those books you read in a day — I certainly did.
The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian
Bohjalian has written over a dozen books, yet I’ve still never come across anyone who’s read any of them. In short, YOU SHOULD. Bohjalian’s writing style is intricate and interesting, and The Double Bind was hands down one of my favorite reads of the year. It’s psychological, mysterious, and a little bit thrilling — and it heavily involves an imagining that the people and events of The Great Gatsby were real.
We the Living, Ayn Rand
Although famous, I think many people have not actually read Rand — or if they have, it was The Fountainhead. Simply put, Rand’s first novel is about a family’s return to their home in Russia after the revolution, focusing mainly on the youngest daughter, Kira. It is heavily centered around her struggle against government control.
Rand’s philosophy turns off a lot of people from her books, but I can honestly say that this book impacted me on a deep level. It’s a story about endurance, life, perceptions, and human nature. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Rand, this book should get you thinking about life and what you believe.
Aiming to read 50 books in 2015 — check out the blog soon for my To Be Read list!